Radiation Safety

Radioactive Materials and Radiation-Producing Equipment

Research and educational activities that involve radioactive materials and/or equipment that produces ionizing radiation are conducted at American University within the allowances of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), license number 08-08371-06.

Questions about the acquisition or use of radioactive materials, radiation-producing equipment, or the Radiation Safety Plan should be directed to the Radiation Safety Officer (RSO), whose contact information can be found under the Resources section.

Yes. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has granted American University a license to possess limited quantities of specific isotopes for research and educational purposes.

Radioactive materials fall into one of two categories: exempt quantity and non-exempt quantity. Under most circumstances, exempt quantities of radioactive materials and generally licensed radiation producing/using equipment are allowed on campus. Prior to the acquisition of exempt quantity materials or equipment, notify the RSO of the following: 

 A. Isotope(s) and activities; 

 B. The intended use of the material or equipment; 

 C. Name of the responsible party; 

 D. Permanent storage location. 

 American University's radioactive materials license is very specific and acquisition of non-exempt quantity materials or radiation producing equipment must be made through the RSO.

The NRC exempts consumer products available to the general public containing radioactive byproduct material from specific licensing requirements. However, a manufacturer must be specifically licensed by the NRC to produce and distribute such products. The NRC determines that the exempt quantity materials or products as well as their intended uses do not present an unreasonable risk to the environment, public health and safety, and national security. Furthermore, the radioactive source in exempt products is designed with radiation safety features built-in.

Exempt sources include check sources for radiation instrument testing, some self-luminous products, certain smoke detectors, and vacuum tubes, welding rods, isogenerators, specific electron microscopy stains, and some geological samples.

Certain equipment and materials are covered by an NRC general license and therefore do not require that the user acquire a specific NRC license. Generally licensed equipment and materials are subject to specific use, transfer and disposal requirements as determined by the NRC. The manufacturer of generally licensed equipment will provide the terms of the general license to the purchaser. The purchaser is then required to comply with these terms.

Generally licensed equipment includes some internal sources for equipment like electron capture detectors and liquid scintillation counters, antistatic devices, some kits used for in-vitro clinical testing, depleted uranium shipping containers, and some exit signs.

As a licensee, we have greater responsibilities with respect to all radioactive materials or radiation producing equipment than non-licensees.

The RSO will assist you in maintenance of any general license requirements as well as in the safe and appropriate stewardship (including disposal) of exempt sources and generally licensed equipment. The RSO will review the request to verify that the material or equipment is indeed non-exempt or under a general license. When necessary the RSO will also incorporate the materials/equipment with the permitted quantities of the current license or facilitate an amendment to the current license.

ALARA stands for As Low As Reasonably Achievable. ALARA is the principle health and safety philosophy applied to the use of equipment or materials that produce ionizing radiation.

For more information, please contact: 

Leanne Wright, MPH, CSP 
Assistant Director
Environmental Health and Safety 
Phone: 202-885-2007
Email: pina@american.edu